Special Olympics golfer a calming influence as Gary Woodland claims first major


Gary Woodland of the United States plays a shot from the 14th tee during the final round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 16, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Kansas native Gary Woodland had started seven different Sundays with the PGA tournament lead and never won any of them.

On the biggest stage at the U.S. Open, he only needed to tell himself three words he learned earlier this year from a special friend, “You got this!”

The 30-foot birdie putt he sunk Sunday at Pebble Beach may have been the biggest putt of Gary Woodland`s life, but maybe not the most important one.

More likely, that putt came at a practice round earlier this year at the Waste Management Open, and he wasn’t even the one holding the putter.

“Why don’t you go ahead and make that?” he said to his playing partner.

“OK, I got this,” Amy Bockerstette responded.

Amy Bockerstette looks on during the LPGA Announcement of new brand positioning encouraging girls to #DriveOn at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge on March 20, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images for LPGA)

Woodland agreed to play the famed stadium-style 16th hole with that Special Olympics golfer with Down Syndrome. He first offered to retrieve her ball from the bunker, but she would show him just because she’s considered special needs, she didn’t need special treatment on the course.

“That is so awesome. You are so awesome,” Woodland excaimed when Bockerstette sunk the putt.

“It was one of the most incredible things I’d ever seen. Gary’s genuine reaction, he was just blown away,” Gordon Docking said.

Docking witnessed some incredible moments as a former FOX4 sportscaster, but he’s been equally impressed by his son Blake’s achievements on the golf course.

Like Bockerstette, the former Special Olympic National Gold Medalist golfer recently turned heads at the Royals Charities Golf Tournament.

“The very first team was John Wathan’s team, and Blake knocked in a putt from 70 feet. The next was George Brett’s team and Blake knocked it in from 15 feet, and George was so excited he threw his ball down and said do it again, and Blake stepped up and knocked it again,” Docking proudly recalled.

So what’s the secret of golfers like Blake and Amy?

“He`s just ready to hit the next one. He doesn’t worry about what just happened. Let`s just go hit the ball again,” Docking said.

Woodland called Bockerstette shortly after hoisting the trophy to explain how she helped inspire the victory.

“How are you? Did you like that today? I used your positive energy. You were awesome,” he told her in a Facetime call.

As big at the win is for Woodland, his first major, it  may prove to be even bigger for the special needs community.

“It gives people the opportunity to realize that people with special needs can do things that maybe you don`t expect them to do,” Docking said.

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